School Finance 612: SAS Field Trips And Travel

School Finance 612

SAS Field Trips And Travel

Learning about the world outside our gates is a vital part of an SAS education. How do we select, plan, and conduct these trips while ensuring efficiency and participant safety? This week, Finance@SAS explains the nuts and bolts of school trips.


Unlike most of Singapore's international schools, SAS includes all required school trips—except for Interim Semester—within our tuition fees. At other schools, such trips are charged separately from school fees; fourth graders at SAIS must pay $1,055 for a trip to Bintan, for instance, while UWC eighth graders pay $2,290 for a trip to Chiang Mai. Our trip-inclusive fee policy makes SAS look slightly more expensive than comparable schools on paper, while if excursion costs were added, we would be less expensive than some. However, we prefer to ensure that all students can participate through their normal tuition payments.


We charge for Interim Semester separately because different trips vary widely in cost. This year, courses ranged from free for most on-island experiences to $4,400 for the most logistically challenging trips. It would thus be unfair and impractical to include an average price in all high school tuitions. For a more detailed discussion of the philosophy and financial implications of Interim Semester, please read Finance 503. Non-mandatory class or service club trips, such as an evening outing to a play or a service trip to Cambodia, are also paid for separately, as are IASAS teams' trips.


We receive support from the SAS Foundations, the PTA, and the Booster Club for school trips. These organizations fund some on-island field trips and provide Interim Semester scholarships for students in need. We appreciate our support organizations' assistance in making sure all SAS students have high-quality educational experiences outside our campus each year.


Turning to school trip procedures and policies, we have been improving these to meet recommendations arising from research into educational travel best practices. Field trips in the elementary school are organized by grade level and generally stay the same from year to year, so they have seen few changes. However, organization and procedures for CWW and Interim Semester have been updated to consolidate trip information, ensure consistency, and support sponsoring teachers to the highest standard.


Two years ago, SAS hired Sebastian Wong as its dedicated travel risk specialist. With a background in outdoor education and experience with UWC's extensive educational travel program, Wong has moved us steadily toward a more structured and standardized approach to trip organization, safety, and security.


Better tracking of students and staff was one of the top best-practice recommendations, so Wong extended a database already used for Interim trips to cover all overseas school trips. Travel details can now be accessed through one portal, making it easier for administrators, teachers, and planners to understand trip implications and update plans and information. Once itineraries are finalized, Wong offers trip-specific suggestions about safety and security. The portal also allows trips to be transferred between sponsoring teachers more easily, without reinventing the wheel each time.


We contract with several companies that provide services for school trips. Some of our more complicated Interim trips are run by Rustic Pathways, Multi-Day Adventures, and Asia Pacific Adventure. Each vendor is assessed for experience, staff qualifications, business structure, and standard operating procedures. International SOS (ISOS) is our emergency response company. ISOS doctors and at least one SAS administrator are always on call to manage accidents, illnesses, or other emergencies; our procedures for liaising with ISOS and with parents have been standardized. ISOS also gives us access to Travel Tracker, which sends travel warnings about affected destinations to Wong and trip sponsors and also tracks school-trip flights.


Going forward, we will continue to coordinate our trip processes across all divisions and departments. We will also keep trips affordable by negotiating with providers, developing economies of scale, and assessing options to ensure value for money. In time, we hope to give families access to the trip portal, so they can track their children's progress.


A robust field trip and travel program is part of what makes an SAS education memorable and rewarding. We hope you have enjoyed learning more about how our school trips are financed, organized, and managed. We welcome comments, questions, and suggestions for future articles; please send them to wscarborough@sas.edu.sg. We look forward to hearing from you.